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Home > General Conference 2004 > General Conference News > News Archives > (0506) Number of Bishops

Assembly Creates Committee to Study the Episcopacy

May 6, 2004 

By Melissa Lauber*

PITTSBURGH (UMNS) –– The number of bishops and the nature and role of episcopal leadership in the United Methodist Church will receive extensive study during the next four years.

General Conference delegates defeated a proposal that would have reduced by one the number of bishops in each of the five U.S. jurisdictions. Instead, the 998-member body referred the matter to a newly formed task force to study the episcopacy. That committee will also study the possibility of naming a bishop to serve as executive officer of the Council of Bishops.

During the next four years, the task force will study several aspects of the episcopacy, including the use of retired bishops, workload of episcopal offices, compensation of bishops, and jurisdictional and central conference boundaries.

The General Council on Finance and Administration offered the proposal to reduce the number of bishops as a cost-saving measure. Ruth Daugherty, of the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual (regional) Conference, estimated that failing to pass this legislation will cost the denomination $5 million during the next four years.

However, the delegates chose, in the words of the Rev. Beverly Wilkes from the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference, to vote “against thinking in terms of scarcity rather than abundance.”

During the debate, delegates questioned the formula that assigned bishops based on the size of an area’s church membership.

Particular concern was raised about the Western Jurisdiction, which would have its six bishops reduced by one, putting it in a situation that “borders on hopelessness,” said Ronald Bretsch, of the North Central New York Annual Conference, who delivered the minority report. The minority report asked that there be a minimum of six bishops in episcopal areas that average more than 55,000 square miles.

Other delegates pointed out that while the Western Jurisdiction is a large area, a bishop from Russia presides over 11 times zones.

Questions about the number of bishops and the geographical sizes of episcopal areas were considered complex enough to require additional study. The motion to refer passed, 478 to 430.

The task force will also consider a proposal from the Council of Bishops that would permit the body to elect a bishop who would be released from other responsibilities to serve as executive officer for four years. The bishops had agreed they would consider this option only if the possibility of such a post was enacted by General Conference.

When the recommendation to refer the creation of this position to a task force was made, a delegate complained that “too often as a General Conference, we suffer from a paralysis of analysis.”

The task force, which has been allotted $147,000 for its work, will report back to the General Conference in 2008.

 

*Lauber is associate editor of the UMConnection, the newspaper of the United Methodist Church's Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference

News media contact: (412) 325-6080 during General Conference, April 27-May 7.
After May 10: (615) 742-5470.

Assembly creates committee to study the episcopacy

May 6, 2004   GC04-087

By Melissa Lauber*

PITTSBURGH (UMNS) –– The number of bishops and the nature and role of episcopal leadership in the United Methodist Church will receive extensive study during the next four years.

General Conference delegates defeated a proposal that would have reduced by one the number of bishops in each of the five U.S. jurisdictions. Instead, the 998-member body referred the matter to a newly formed task force to study the episcopacy. That committee will also study the possibility of naming a bishop to serve as executive officer of the Council of Bishops.

During the next four years, the task force will study several aspects of the episcopacy, including the use of retired bishops, workload of episcopal offices, compensation of bishops, and jurisdictional and central conference boundaries.

The General Council on Finance and Administration offered the proposal to reduce the number of bishops as a cost-saving measure. Ruth Daugherty, of the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual (regional) Conference, estimated that failing to pass this legislation will cost the denomination $5 million during the next four years.

However, the delegates chose, in the words of the Rev. Beverly Wilkes from the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference, to vote “against thinking in terms of scarcity rather than abundance.”

During the debate, delegates questioned the formula that assigned bishops based on the size of an area’s church membership.

Particular concern was raised about the Western Jurisdiction, which would have its six bishops reduced by one, putting it in a situation that “borders on hopelessness,” said Ronald Bretsch, of the North Central New York Annual Conference, who delivered the minority report. The minority report asked that there be a minimum of six bishops in episcopal areas that average more than 55,000 square miles.

Other delegates pointed out that while the Western Jurisdiction is a large area, a bishop from Russia presides over 11 times zones.

Questions about the number of bishops and the geographical sizes of episcopal areas were considered complex enough to require additional study. The motion to refer passed, 478 to 430.

The task force will also consider a proposal from the Council of Bishops that would permit the body to elect a bishop who would be released from other responsibilities to serve as executive officer for four years. The bishops had agreed they would consider this option only if the possibility of such a post was enacted by General Conference.

When the recommendation to refer the creation of this position to a task force was made, a delegate complained that “too often as a General Conference, we suffer from a paralysis of analysis.”

The task force, which has been allotted $147,000 for its work, will report back to the General Conference in 2008.

*Lauber is associate editor of the UMConnection, the newspaper of the United Methodist Church's Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference

News media contact: (412) 325-6080 during General Conference, April 27-May 7.  After May 10: (615) 742-5470.




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